My 86 years-old Dad, who is as independent and healthy as you could imagine being at his age, has barely ventured out these last few months.
With lockdown restrictions now eased for “shielded” older people he told me yesterday that he’d planned to go out on his first post-Covid shopping trip only to abandon the idea once he’d got himself ready to go.
He wasn’t sure whether it was the drive into town or being amongst others in a busy shop that was putting him off. When we discussed it he wasn’t clear whether it was fear of catching the virus or just a general apprehension about going out.
He’s had a hard lockdown with a close friend and family member dying and although he puts a brave face on things I know he’s found these last few weeks really difficult.
If someone like him is suffering, it makes you wonder how many others are struggling not just with the lockdown but the coming out of it. This new normal may be as big a challenge to the older population than the simple requirements of lockdown.
It’s hardly surprising when you think about it. The risk of Covd-19 killing you grows 12 to 13 percent with every year of age. This means the risk doubles every five to six years and by the time you reach old age it is pretty extreme.
“For the over-90s, the risk is more akin to flying a mission with Bomber Command during the Secord World War,” says Sir David Speigelhalter, a statistician and chairman of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge.
This really puts into context the risks older people have been facing, and still do to an extent. It’s hardly surprisingly then that retired people cooped up as they have been for over 100 days will struggle with the next few months, quite possibly with the rest of their lives.
The well-publicised issues surrounding loneliness in the lockdown are one thing, the anxieties around going out again will be another.
In a way, people in their eighties and nineties might well be experiencing a form of post traumatic stress disorder. I hope they’ll be encouraged to talk about the challenges of the new normal and that the support will be there to help them get through it.